(June 7, 2019) –- For more than a year, GozNym, a gang of five Russian cyber criminals, stole login credentials and emptied bank accounts from unaware Americans. To detect and quickly respond to escalating cyber-attacks like these, researchers at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) have developed the first framework to score the agility of cyber attackers and defenders. The cyber agility project was funded by the Army Research Office.
“Cyber agility isn’t just about patching a security hole, it’s about understanding what happens over time. Sometimes when you protect one vulnerability, you expose yourself to 10 others,” said computer science alumnus Jose Mireles ’17, who now works for the U.S. Department of Defense and co-developed this first known framework as part of his UTSA master’s thesis. “In car crashes, we understand how to test for safety using the rules of physics. It is much harder to quantify cybersecurity because scientists have yet to figure out what are the rules of cybersecurity. Having formal metrics and measurement to understand the attacks that occur will benefit a wide range of cyber professionals.”
To develop a quantifiable framework, Mireles collaborated with fellow UTSA student Eric Ficke, researchers at Virginia Tech, U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, and the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Army Research Laboratory (CCDC ARL). The project was conducted under the supervision of UTSA Professor Shouhuai Xu, who serves as the director of the UTSA Laboratory for Cybersecurity Dynamics.
Together, they used a honeypot—a computer system that lures real cyber-attacks—to attract and analyze malicious traffic according to time and effectiveness. As both the attackers and the defenders created new techniques, the researchers were able to better understand how a series of engagements transformed into an adaptive, responsive and agile pattern or what they called an evolution generation.
The framework proposed by the researchers will help government and industry organizations visualize how well they out-maneuver attacks. This groundbreaking work will be published in an upcoming issue of IEEE Transactions on Information Forensics and Security, a top cybersecurity journal.
“The cyber agility framework is the first of its kind and allows cyber defenders to test out numerous and varied responses to an attack,” said Xu. “This is an outstanding piece of work as it will shape the investigation and practice of cyber agility for the many years to come.”
"The DoD and US Army recognize that the Cyber domain is as important a battlefront as Ground, Air and Sea," said Purush Iyer, Ph.D. division chief, network sciences at Army Research Office, an element of CCDC ARL. "Being able to predict what the adversaries will likely do provides opportunities to protect and to launch countermeasures."
Mireles added, “A picture or graph in this case is really worth more than 1,000 words. Using our framework, security professionals will recognize if they’re getting beaten or doing a good job against an attacker.”
UTSA is home to the nation’s top cybersecurity program, an interdisciplinary approach that spans three colleges: the College of Business, College of Engineering and College of Sciences. Research centers and outreach programs provide UTSA students and faculty with additional opportunities to explore the various facets of this high demand and ever-changing field.
The Department of Computer Science, housed in the UTSA College of Sciences, offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs that support more than 1,360 undergraduate students and 68 graduate students. Its major research units include the UTSA Institute for Cyber Security, which operates the FlexCloud and FlexFarm laboratories dedicated to both basic and applied cybersecurity research, and the UTSA Center for Infrastructure Assurance and Security (CIAS), which focuses on the cybersecurity maturity of cities and communities while conducting national cyber defense competitions for high school and college students.
San Antonio is home to one of the largest concentrations of cybersecurity experts and industry leaders outside Washington, D.C., which uniquely positions the city and UTSA to lead the nation in cybersecurity research and workforce development.
Learn more about the UTSA Department of Computer Science.
Learn more about cybersecurity at UTSA.
Celebrate UTSA’s 50th Anniversary and share social media posts about the 50th using the hashtag #UTSA50.
Roadrunner Days events welcome UTSA's newest students and helps our returning Roadrunners learn strategies for success in the new year.Various locations, Main and Downtown campuses
Join the UTSA contingent as we honor the memory and work of Martin Luther King Jr. in this citywide march. The City of San Antonio has sponsored this march on the east side of the city down MLK Drive since 1987.MLK Academy, 3501 MLK Drive, San Antonio
This exhibition, curated by Libby Rowe and Scott Sherer, presents the work of women artists who are compelled by their commitments to investigating and transforming social and cultural legacies and contexts.UTSA Art Gallery (ART 2.03.04), Main Campus
UTSA will further honor King with the university's annual MLK Day of Service. Roadrunners are encouraged to participate in the service day, located in various locations, including helping to beautify campus.Various locations, Main Campus
Celebrating the Year of the Rat, the 33rd annual Asian Festival will feature a wide spectrum of Asian cultures with family-friendly events and performances. Enjoy authentic Asian foods with a menu including Vietnamese, Korean, Thai, Pakistani, Chinese and Filipino cuisines. Vendors will sell clothing, artwork, dolls, silk items, jewelry and other exotic gifts.Institute of Texan Cultures, Hemisfair Campus, 801 E. César E. Chávez Blvd., San Antonio
Peniel E. Joseph, founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at UT Austin, will discuss his book “The Sword and The Shield,” which focuses on the lives of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.Student Union, Denman Room (SU 2.01.28), Main Campus
The Heart Walk will be held at all three campus locations starting at the same time. Support Go Red for Women Day by wearing red.All UTSA campuses
The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.
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